2 min read September 2021 — Jesus Saenz, Director of Airports at the San Antonio Airport System, spoke to Invest: about how the entity has continued to thrive despite the challenges of the pandemic. That includes building a vaccination center at the airport to better equip the community and move past the current hindrances to plane travel.
What have been the highlights for San Antonio International Airport over the last 18 months?
Our highest priority has been making sure our travelers and staff were safe during this time. The highlight continues to be the programs we’ve implemented to prioritize the health and safety of our passengers. One of the efforts that we launched once the pandemic had commenced was a COVID-19 task force that specifically worked on the overall safety, not just of our employees here in San Antonio, but those passing through our entire airport complex. We have over 5,000 employees working here, coming in and out, whether they’re airline employees or work in concessions. Ensuring everyone’s safety and building passenger confidence — what we call consumer confidence — was at the forefront. We purchased a Xenex Light Strike, a germ-zapping, bacteria fighting robot also known as the “SATerminator”. The robot uses UV rays to combat COVID-19 and other germs and bacteria. As we look at the past 18 months and how we are doing business, it’s easy to see the progress with everyone easily entering and exiting our airport. Historically, we looked at the curb-to-gate process and that has now shifted to looking at new platforms and technologies. It is now from the home, or the business to the gate, as we take into consideration what passengers are going through as they experience the airport complex.
How has the COVID vaccination clinic helped the airport?
The clinic is a partnership between the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Division of Emergency Management and the San Antonio International Airport. It’s certainly a convenient option for travelers passing through the airport and in need of a vaccination. We have also had groups of travelers arrive just for the vaccines. We are offering an important service to the community and we realize the significance of the program. We’ve been providing the vaccinations for over two-and-a half months now, and we have plans to continue the clinic through the end of 2021. We continue to work toward getting everyone to herd immunity to win the battle against this pandemic, so that we can get to the new normal in this post-COVID-19 pandemic era.
How did the airport adapt to the new travel trends in 2020?
One of the first steps we took at the airport was to establish a COVID-19 task force. We wanted to create an atmosphere where everyone who comes to the airport for work or travel felt safe. One of our top priorities was maintaining customer confidence during uncertain times. The team put in place the adaptive efforts that were necessary for us to communicate and inform all of our passengers of the new protocols at the airport. We created new messaging and new campaigns to inform travelers of the new protocols.
How did federal stimulus aid your operations?
We’re definitely in a sea of uncertainty. None of us knows what is going to come in the next 12 to 24 months. The stimulus was incredibly impactful and very beneficial to the entire city of San Antonio and the San Antonio Airport System. We’ve been very fortunate in that we are a leisure destination that has continued to rebound. We keep daily statistics to track our activity to make sure it reflects how we’re doing at the airport. We established some very specific information portals to track this information. We can see how we are rebounding in 2021. We put together some forecasting models — from 1 to 5, based on optimistic to pessimistic — and we are proud to say that we are trending above 2. It tells us that we are close to 80%. At points, we’re reaching as high as 90%.
How are you handling the labor shortage seen in the industry?
First and foremost, we must care about our people. We need to maintain some sincerity and genuineness when we operate at the airport. We have launched adaptive efforts in concert with the City of San Antonio. Employees have the option of working remotely. We are also establishing time for family members if they need to be at home because they couldn’t get to work. Our employees are our priority. Recently, employees have been offered incentives if they received the vaccination. We’ve also allowed wellness days so that employees can pay more attention to their family. These are the things we are doing to ensure that people feel cared for, so that we do not have to contend with any labor shortages.
For more information, visit: